Belfast City Airport has a handful of different names. Some still refer to it by its original name – the Harbour Airport. Nerds and trainspotters like me sometimes refer to it in writing by its three letter code, BHD. The airport itself places get pride in its newest offical name, which is in honour of one of Northern Ireland’s greatest footballers. It’s just a shame that every time I land here I remember that he was also a serial wife beater and alcoholic. Such foibles are apparently easy to forget if you’re a good footballer.
The airport has a modern and friendly passenger terminal right next to the A2 Belfast – Bangor road, about five minutes from the city centre. It’s also adjacent to the Belfast – Bangor railway line, making it probably the only airport in Ireland to be easily accessible by train: a footbridge connects Sydenham station with the old airport entrance (above). This, however, has been closed to vehicle traffic since the old passenger terminal was decommissioned and the new one constructed about half a mile away to the north east. Passengers arriving and departing by train have to request a shuttle bus: easy enough in the terminal but dependant on a mobile phone if you arrive by train and find the almost permanently broken courtesy phone in the shelter on the left of the picture above.
While waiting for the bus to come and collect you there is the occasional plane taking off or landing near by, just beyond rows of neatly parked rental cars. There are also discarded remnants of the old passenger terminal, and the majority of a large structure (on the right in the photograph) that was used for checking arriving vehicles during the Troubles.
Most entertainingly, there are a number of old advertising hoardings that haven’t been removed since the old passenger terminal was shut down. I might possibly have seen this very same advert for the now twice rebranded Jersey European when I made my first visit to Northern Ireland in the mid-nineties, flying in on an Air UK flight from London Stansted. Jersey European became British European and then just FlyBe. Air UK became KLM UK. I hope there’s another airport somewhere with a fading advert for Air UK somewhere, although I’ve yet to find it.